Trailblazing Irish LGBTQ+ activist Edmund Lynch passes away

As one of the founding members of Ireland's Sexual Liberation Movement, Edmund Lynch leaves behind an invaluable legacy.

Close up shot of Edmund Lynch. He smiles with his mouth closed and looks into the lens of the camera.
Image: Instagram: @DublinPride

On Wednesday, October 4, it was announced that trailblazing Irish LGBTQ+ activist, Edmund Lynch, has sadly passed away. The Dubliner is credited as one of the leading figures to pave the way for queer rights in Ireland, being at the centre of the fight since the 1970s.

Lynch was a founding member of the country’s first Sexual Liberation Movement (SLM), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In 1973, 10 Trinity College students held an undercover meeting on campus, sharing a common goal of mobilising systemic change in areas including feminism, racism, gay rights, colonialism, art and literature.

“It was shortly after, two or three years after Stonewall,” Lynch recalled in 2013 as part of his Irish LGBTI+ Oral History Project. “Gays were beginning to rise. They were beginning to feel it’s time for us to get our rights.”

At the time of the SLM’s founding, there were a number of serious legal and societal restrictions barring LGBTQ+ people from equal rights in Ireland, including, perhaps most prominently, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act. The legislation, which was brought to the country through British colonialism, made “gross indecency” a punishable offence and was broadly used to prosecute gay men for consensual sex.

“We could get life imprisonment or you can get 10 years,” Lynch remembered. “That was the situation. We were criminals”.


On June 24, 1974, the SLM picketed outside the Department of Justice in Dublin in what was the first-ever demonstration for Homosexual Law Reform in Ireland. It would take almost 20 more years of tireless campaigning before decriminalisation was achieved in 1993.

Ultimately, the emergence of the SLM in the early ‘70s led to the establishment of the Irish Gay Rights Movement (IGRM), National Gay Federation and Cork Gay Collective, who all canvassed and lobbied media for more queer representation. Lynch was one of the key players in securing prime-time television slots and column inches, as he was a sound engineer with RTÉ.


Thanks to his influence, the first openly LGBTQ+ person appeared on Irish television in 1975. That individual was Senator David Norris, another co-founder of the SLM. This milestone moment was to be followed in 1977 by a Tuesday Report documentary that focused on homosexuality in Ireland.

In 1979, Lynch was one of the founding members of Dublin’s Hirschfeld Centre, which was the home of queer disco Flikkers and Ireland’s first helpline Tel-A-Friend. As one of the country’s first LGBTQ+ community centres, it received media attention in RTÉ and The Irish Times, and was an incredibly valuable facility for many.

In 1980, gay liberation in Cork secured visibility on the current affairs show Week In, which saw Arthur Leahy and Laurie Steele come out and discuss their relationship on national screens. During the same year, Joni Crone also became one of the first lesbians to come out publicly in Ireland when she appeared on The Late Late Show.

This media activism, in which Lynch was at the forefront, is credited with being central to shifting public opinion of the LGBTQ+ community and holding institutions of power accountable.

The campaigner was also one of the founders of one of the country’s first queer publications, OUT magazine, produced a film entitled Did Anyone Notice Us? and did invaluable archiving work over the years.


Lynch continued to be a hugely influential figure in the Irish LGBTQ+ community well beyond the early years of the gay rights movement, and all through huge moments like achieving Marriage Equality in 2015. He was regularly seen attending and participating in community events, and was always eager to chat and engage with all present.

Speaking to GCN about ageing in 2017, Lynch expressed: “As you get older (you) have greater freedom to be yourself, but then again, I’ve always had freedom to be myself. I’ve always stood up for myself. That’s my approach.”

More recently, as he reflected on the previous 50 years of activism, he said he was hopeful for the future of sexual liberation in Ireland, but emphasised that it is now in the hands of the nation’s queer youth.

“People like myself, as you get older, should be forgotten about,” he said. “It’s up to young people to change the world. It’s not up to me to change it anymore. My time has come and gone.”


In light of the news, many have taken to social media to pay tribute to the activist. 


Queer Culture Ireland wrote, “The legendary gay trailblazer Edmund Lynch has taken his last bow. One of a fierce bunch who shone the light brightly and led the way for all of us who followed.

Thank you Edmund, it was an honour and a pleasure to know you.”

Jude Copeland commented: “You may have never heard his name, but as a lawyer and as a gay man who grew up in the long shadown of criminalisation, people like Edmund are our heroes. The people who showed us how to be ourselves.”


Dublin Pride, who selected Edmund Lynch as one of the grand marshals for the 2023 parade, described the activist as “a pioneer of the Irish Gay Rights Movement and an extraordinary advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.” The organisation added that he “will be remembered for his fierce wit (and sharp tongue).”

A true warrior in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Ireland, rest in power, Edmund Lynch.

© 2023 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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